Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

News & Notes.

  • California’s 66.7% from the field against Oregon was the best any Pac-10 team has registered in conference play this year.  Theo Robertson of the Golden Bears still leads the nation in 3-point percentage shooting at a 55.2% clip. 
    Patrick Christopher is just 13 points shy of 1000, at 987.  Jerome Randle is right behind at 957.  Randle also is ninth in career 3-point field goals made at 125, and tenth in career assists with 313. Randle is also first in career free-throw percentage at 85.7%.
  • This is just the third time Washington has started 6-1 in the last 25 years.  Washington has won 13 out of their last 14 games. It is the first time the Huskies have been in sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 since January 2005. It is just the third time Washington has started 6-1 in the last 25 years.  The only time the Huskies ever had a better start through seven games was 1953 when they went 7-0.  Last week Washington averaged getting to the free throw line 41.5 times a game.  If they keep getting to the line this much they will be hard to beat.
  • Arizona forward Jordan Hill’s 30 points and 18 rebounds against Houston, was his first game of his career that he broke the 20 point and 15 rebound plateaus.  Blake Griffin on the other hand has put together 10 such games so far this year. Aubrey Coleman’s face stomp of Chase Budinger was the most classless act I have seen in years.  He should have been suspended multiple games for that.  Each high-five he got while leaving the game, should have added a game to it.
  • Oregon State’s three victories so far match their total of the last two seasons combined.
  • Joe Lunardi currently has Arizona State, California, UCLA and Washington getting in the dance.  It is hard to see any other Pac-10 teams really making a push.  USC has been too inconsistent still and they are the only other team with a shot in my mind.

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Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2008

Michael Hurley of The Bleacher Report is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

The Pac-10 still is searching for the first defining win of the year.  The out of conference schedules have not helped any teams come tournament time. Sure Stanford is 4-0, but the toughest team they have played is a 4-3 Colorado team who lost to Montana State.  Arizona State is 7-1, but their best win is over a 6-1 Nebraska team, who had yet to play a team from a big conference when they came into Tempe.  One thing is for sure, the Pac-10 does not want to go back into Texas where Arizona lost 67-66 at Texas A&M and UCLA lost 68-64 at Texas .  In fact, the only win against a Texas team this week was Washington’s victory over winless Texas Southern University.  The Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series is not what Tom Hansen envisioned, as the Pac-10 is 3-6 so far.  Worth noting, Arizona is two baskets away from being 8-0. 

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ATB: Blake Griffin Wasn’t Using Those Anyway*

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2008

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*

Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Challenge. We’d hoped to have gotten a preview up on these games this afternoon, but we were epically busy today, so it didn’t happen.  Nevertheless, we probably would have chosen UCLA, USC and Oklahoma St.  But we have to say that the two marquee games tonight were considerably more interesting than the premier games of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge the last two nights (Duke v. Purdue and UNC v. Michigan St.).  We had the good fortune to watch both of these game in their entirety.

  • Oklahoma 73, USC 72. As soon as you’re prepared to completely right off Tim Floyd and his Trojans, they have a game like this where it makes you reconsider every lackadaisical stereotype that you held about his team.  Of course, the stereotype for punkish behavior – yep, still got that one.  We’re sure you’ve already seen it, but in case you haven’t, USC freshman goon forward Leonard Washington introduced himself to all-world Blake Griffin with a rogue elbow to the family jewels as they ran upcourt in the second half (see below).  He was ejected for the manuever, but Griffin was forced to leave the game for a while, whereupon USC immediately started cutting into the 6-8 pt lead.  The game remained tight until the very end, when OU made just enough FTs to hang on.  USC competed well in the hostile environment, though, shooting 50% from the field and 8-11 from three; Dwight Lewis had 25 and Taj Gibson chipped in a double-double (12/10).  Most importantly, even though Griffin still had 25 pts, OU kept him off the boards to the tune of 6 total (13 below his average) and  only 1 offensive, so limiting those second-chances helped keep the Trojans in the game.

  • Texas 68, UCLA 64. When these two teams get together, you can count on physical defense, high-flying athletes, and (usually) a bricklayer’s convention.  That was pretty much the case tonight, as the two teams combined for 50-122 (40.9%) from the field and 16-29 (55.2%) from the line.  Still, the duel between all-american guards Darren Collison and AJ Abrams was well worth the price of admission.  Early in the game it appeared that Collison was going to shoot 70% for the remainder of the season, as everything he threw up was hitting the bottom of the net.  But it was Abrans who had the last laugh again this year, as his huge three with just under three minutes remaining gave Texas a more comfortable six-point lead and forced UCLA to begin rushing possessions.  Damion James added 13/13 for Texas, but UCLA is going to have to get more help for its upperclassmen from their uber-hyped freshmen (1-12) tonight.  Their rookie quintet will ultimately determine the success of their season.
  • Washington 83, Oklahoma St. 65. UW is difficult to figure this year.  They’ve looked downright awful at times, and like a tournament team others.  Tonight was the latter, as Jon Brockman dropped 16/11 in the home win.  What has happened to OSU’s James Anderson?  Big things were expected for this sophomore guard, but in his last four games he’s put up only 11ppg on 14-44 shooting.

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After the Buzzer: Opening Weekend Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2008

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News & Notes.  First, a few notable pieces of news from the weekend.

  • As many as six of Arizona’s players could be ineligible for their opener Monday against Florida Atlantic in the Preseason NIT.  This relates to the ‘big mistake’ that Lute Olson made by allowing a letter with his name affixed to it go out to boosters seeking financial support for a local AAU Tournament (an NCAA violation).  The named players may have received impermissable expenses during this AAU event.
  • We’re shocked, shocked we tell you, in finding Ole Miss and West Virginia (of all places) received Fs in a minority hiring report.  Not sure what’s up with Dayton, though.
  • South Carolina starting guard Brandis Raley-Ross will miss 3-4 weeks with a sprained left knee.  Similarly, Villanova guard Dwayne Anderson will join teammate Shane Clark on the injury roll with a stress fracture in his left foot – he’ll be out indefinitely.
  • This Quinnapiac racial threat thing is just getting more and more bizarre – now the victim is harassing one of the other victims?  Get a grip, folks.
  • And here’s another example of Nebraska pushing into the gray area with the rules relating to their supposedly non-public scrimmage with Marquette last week.

Game of the Weekend. Duke 82, Rhode Island 79. Maybe it was the light blue uniforms.  Mere days after barely surviving Brown, URI nearly pulled off a major upset by going into Cameron Indoor Stadium and leading the Blue Devils most of the way before losing at the end in a hard-fought 82-79 battle.  Jimmy Baron’s 24 (8 threes, several of which were ridiculous) led the way for the Rams, but the Devils scored on their last seven possessions to erase a 7-pt deficit with four minutes to go.  Duke was led by Kyle Singler’s 21/5/5 assts and Jon Scheyer’s 23, but it was Duke’s defense that put the Devils in danger of breaking their 62-game home court non-conference winning streak (dating back to 2000).  They gave up 10-14 from three and allowed URI to shoot 55% from the field.  This game was on the U, so of course we couldn’t actually watch it – if anyone did get to see it, feel free to leave comments below.

Upset of the Weekend. Mercer 72, Alabama 69. The middle of the SEC looks pathetic so far this season.  Already there were the Friday night debacle at Kentucky (VMI) and the near-miss at Arkansas (SE Louisiana); well, tonight Mark Gottfried was back to his old underachieving tricks.  The Crimson Tide are projected to be in the SEC West mix for a division title and NCAA bid, but tonight’s game exposed some serious issues with this team.  First, other than Ronald Steele (the good news for Bama fans is that he finally appears healthy), who put up 25 pts tonight, and JaMychal Green (17/12/3 blks), where will points come from?  Alonzo Gee contributed a mere four points, and only one other player reached double figures (Mikhail Torrance).  Perhaps even more importantly, the Tide were outrebounded by the smaller Bears, 49-32, which is simply inexcusable for an SEC team with vastly superior size.  (like anyone in Alabama cares about hoops right now…)  As for Mercer, this is becoming old hat for them.  You may recall last year that Mercer went into USC and dropped the Trojans in their home opener, 96-81.  They then promptly lost their next five games en route to an 11-19 campaign – will this year be any different?  James Florence led the way for Mercer with 23/6/5 assts.

More Upsets.

  • Northeastern 70, Providence 66. New Friar head man Keno Davis didn’t want to start like this.  Providence is facing a tough enough conference season in the Big East; they didn’t need to put themselves behind the RPI eight-ball with an opening home loss to a mid-major.  Northeastern has a good team, but what happened to Sharaud Curry (1-8 for 2 pts)?  Matt Janning killed PC with 24/6 on 10-14 shooting.
  • Portland 80, Washington 74. Ditto for Lorenzo Romar.  Washington is a trendy pick to make some noise in the Pac-10 this year, but if the Huskies find themselves on the bubble next March, they will lament losing this game.  Jon Brockman had 30/14, but he got absolutely no help on the inside (Quincy Pondexter in particular laid an egg with zero points).  An old bugaboo killed Washington – the free-throw line (19-32, .594).  Nik Raivio (Derek’s little bro) led a balanced Portland attack with 19/7 rebs.

How’d #1 Look? UNC 86, Penn 71. The nation’s #1 team had a solid, if spotty, performance without reigning POY Tyler Hansbrough and their best defender Marcus Ginyard on the court Saturday.  Six players reached double figures, including two freshman bigs, Tyler Zeller (18 pts) and Eric Davis (10/14).  Bobby Frasor played 21 minutes, despite reports late last week to the contrary.  Penn managed to get the game down to a ten-point deficit with four minutes remaining behind 11 threes and a big game from guard Tyler Bernardini (26 pts), but they never seriously threatened.  All in all, considering what UNC didn’t have on the court in this game, we’d have to believe Roy feels pretty good about his team’s performance.

Mid-Major Corner. These games matter on resumes in March.

  • George Mason 80, Vermont 79 (OT). This looked like a tremendous battle of mids in Burlington, VT, on Saturday.  GMU’s Darryl Monroe was awesome, tallying 19/17 including a beastly nine offensive rebounds and the game-winning FTs with 0.7 showing on the clock.  Marquis Blakely, his counterpart on Vermont, was equally effective, going for 24/8/4 stls/4 blks in a game that was back-and-forth until the last possession.
  • Butler 58, Drake 48. Butler held Drake to 31% shooting and 14 first-half points in a methodical road win between two prominent mid-majors.  Is Drake finished now that Keno Davis is gone?
  • UNLV 65, San Diego 60. An undermanned USD team with three players serving suspensions still nearly pulled the upset at UNLV Saturday night.  This game was close throughout until UNLV, led by Wink Adams’ 19/4, made six key FTs down the stretch.  Rob Jones led San Diego with 19/10/4 assts.
  • Creighton 82, New Mexico 75. Incredibly named P’Allen Stinnett (30 pts) and Booker Woodfox (26 pts) led a huge second-half surge for Creighton (19-3 in the final three minutes) to start its season off with a nice win.

    FIrst Looks. Some coaches had their first games at new schools this weekend.

    • LSU 79, Jackson St. 65. Trent Johnson started his LSU career with a victory fueled by a late 17-6 run.  Tasmin Mitchell had 17/7.
    • Indiana 83, Northwestern St. 65. Devan Dumes scored 21 pts in Tom Crean’s Hoosier debut.  This was a good win for this program no matter what happens the rest of the way.
    • California 68, Pacific 56. Monty returned to coaching on the other side of the Bay by winning his first home game, a hard-fought victory led by Jerome Randle’s 24 pts and Patrick Christopher’s 18 pts.

    Statistical Oddities. More like, offensive offensiveness.

    • Manhattan 56, NJIT 32.  The abomination continues.  NJIT shot a blistering 23% in tying the NCAA record for consecutive losses (34).  Up next: @ Penn St. Monday night for the win, er, loss.
    • Washington St. 76, Mississippi Valley St. 25. Memo to MVSU: stop scheduling Wazzu.  In the last two years, Washington St. has outscored MVSU 147-51 (or, the score of one of Wazzu’s Pac-10 football games).

    Saturday Games of Interest.

    • Gonzaga 83, MSU-Billings 52. If Josh Heytvelt is once again healthy, this team is legit, and it appears that he is (15/8/3 blks).  Austin Daye added 15/12/4 blks for as talented a front line as there is in the country.
    • Tennessee 114, UT-Chattanooga 75. UT set a new record for assists (32) as it won its 33d straight home game in a rout.  Six Vols reached double figures, led by Tyler Smith’s 21/4/5 assts.
    • Memphis 90, Fairfield 63. Tyreke Evans came off the bench to lead the Tigers with 19/5/3 in his debut for Memphis.  Despite the blowout, Calipari was upset with his defense – the Tigers allowed Fairfield to shoot 50% from the field and 44% from three.
    • USC 78, UC Irvine 55. USC struggled for a half before blowing out UC Irvine behind freshman sensation Demar DeRozan’s 14/3.  Dwight Lewis added 18/7 and Taj Gibson 17/6.

      Sunday Games of Interest.

      • Florida 81, Bradley 58.  The Gators rode fourteen threes to an easy win over a decent Bradley squad.  Nick Calathes dropped 13/7/6 asst/4 stls, and Dan Werner had Walter Hodge each contributed 17 pts.
      • Clemson 76, Temple 72. Clemson held on after blowing a 14-pt second half lead by hitting some big FTs down the stretch in the Charleston Classic.  CU’s Trever Booker had 15/16, while Temple’s Dionte Christmas was relatively quiet with 14/5 and six turnovers.
      • Virginia 107, VMI 97.  No upset magic today for VMI, coming off of its miraculous upset at Kentucky.  UVa was led by Sylven Landesberg’s 28/8/8 assts, who set a freshman debut scoring record for the school.
      • Wisconsin 68, Long Beach St. 61. Marcus Landry’s (23/4/3 blks) huge three with 22 seconds remaining gave UW just enough cushion to avoid the home upset.  Of some concern for Bo Ryan will be the Badgers allowing 48% shooting from their Big West foes.
      • Michigan St. 100, Idaho 62. MSU cruised behind Chris Allen and Raymar Morgan’s twin 21-pt performances.
      • Holy Cross 73, St. Joseph’s 69 (OT). This is a really good early win for the Patriot League against an A10 stalwart.
      • Notre Dame 94, USC-Upstate 54. Luke Harongody blew up for 30/14, including his fourth career three-pointer, in a blowout at home.  Luke Zeller added 18/5 off the bench.
      • Kansas 71, Missouri-Kansas City 56. KU shook off a 1-13 shooting night from three to pull away from UMKC in the second half on the strength of their defense, which held their opponent to 29% shooting.

      On Tap Monday (all times EST).

      • Davidson (-17.5) v. James Madison – 6pm (NIT)
      • Connecticut v. Hartford (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
      • Boston College (-13.5) v. Loyola (MD)  (ESPNU) – 7pm (NIT)
      • Pittsburgh (-14) v. Miami (OH) (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
      • Purdue (-20.5) v. E. Michigan (ESPN2 & 360) – 7pm (NIT)
      • UAB (-10) v. Santa Clara - 8pm (NIT)
      • Missouri (-14) v. UT-Chattanooga  (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
      • Oklahoma St. (-11) v. N. Texas (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
      • Marquette v. Chicago St.  (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
      • Belmont v. Austin Peay – 8pm
      • Texas Tech v. Sam Houston St. (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
      • Oklahoma (-30) v. Miss. Valley St.  (ESPNU) – 9pm
      • Arizona (-18.5) v. Florida Atlantic (ESPNU) – 11pm (NIT)
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      2008-09 Conference Primers: #4 – Pac-10

      Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2008

      Predicted Order of Finish:

      1. UCLA (25-4, 15-3)
      2. Arizona St. (20-8, 11-7)
      3. USC (17-11, 10-8)
      4. Washington St. (17-12, 10-8)
      5. Washington (18-12, 9-9)
      6. California (14-15, 8-10)
      7. Arizona (13-16, 8-10)
      8. Oregon (11-17, 7-11)
      9. Stanford (12-17, 6-12)
      10. Oregon St. (7-22, 3-15)

      pac10logo1

      WYN2K.  This is not the same Pac-10 conference as last year, plain and simple.  Gone are lottery picks OJ Mayo (USC), Russell Westbrook (UCLA), Kevin Love (UCLA), Brook Lopez (Stanford) and Jerryd Bayless (Arizona).  Gone are Robin Lopez (Stanford) and Ryan Anderson (Cal), also first-rounders.  Gone are Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA) and Davon Jefferson (USC), who went in the second round and not at all, respectively.  This year’s Pac-10 transition isn’t just limited to players.  There are new coaches at Oregon St. (Craig Robinson), Stanford (Johnny Dawkins), Cal (Mike Montgomery) and Arizona (Russ Pennell).  It’s safe to say that no other major conference will look as significantly different from last year as the Pac-10 in 2008-09. 

      Predicted Champion.   UCLA (NCAA #1)Perhaps the only consistency in the Pac-10 this year will be he continued dominance of Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins over the rest of this conference.  After three straight Final Fours and another superb recruiting class matriculating in Westwood, Howland has built his program to the enviable point where he can lose two lottery picks and another starter as early entries to the NBA Draft and not expect his program to suffer major slippage.  While we don’t believe that this version of UCLA will be as good of a team as the 2007-08 edition, the Bruins’ position relative to the rest of the conference may actually be stronger this time around.  He returns an all-american PG, Darren Collison, who has played in three F4s and led the nation in 3FG% last year (.525, min. 80 attempts).  More importantly, Collison has a chip on his shoulder after a miserable national semifinal performance against Memphis last year (2 pts, 5 tos, 5 fouls) - when he’s directing his team effectively, there are few teams in America that can overcome their bruising defense and efficient offense.  The national #1 recruiting class is headlined by all-world guard Jrue Holiday, who is expected to start from day one.  His talent, along with a cadre of perimeter (Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson) and inside players (J’Mison Morgan, Drew Gordon), will give Howland numerous lineup options to throw at opponents.  Furthermore, UCLA returns a finally-healthy Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya to provide experience and a steady hand at crunch time.  As we said before, we don’t believe this UCLA team will be as good as last year’s squad, but it probably doesn’t have to be.  The Pac-10 has dropped in talent significantly, and UCLA should be able to roll through to another fantastic record and possible high RPI rating to garner another #1 seed out west.  Here’s a pretty good indication of why Darren Collison is so important for this team.

      NCAA Teams.  We’re not sure that we see more than four NCAA teams in the Pac-10 this year, which sent six to the Big Dance last season and arguably deserved seven (Arizona St.).  In the best-case scenario, things come together for certain teams and the league hopes for five on Selection Sunday, but there’s a more realistic chance that there will only be three NCAA selections made on that day. 

      • Arizona St. (NCAA #4)Herb Sendek’s coaching resume shows that once he gets a program to the 20-win plateau for the first time, it typically stays there.  In other words, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that ASU, who is returning its top eight players from a 21-13 NIT quarterfinalist, will regress this season.   The key player, of course, is James Harden, a coulda-been-one-and-done, who lit up the conference for 18/5/3 assts, including 41% from behind the arc (and 53% overall).  Harden is a future lottery pick in a league where the only other potential such picks are freshmen (DeRozan, Holiday).  Pac-10 teams are not going to enjoy their trips to Tempe this year.
      • USC (NCAA #8) – We struggled in making this selection, but the thing that pushes USC into the top three of the Pac-10 is simply, talent.  Other than UCLA, no other program has as much pure talent that it can put on the floor.  Undisciplined, maddening talent – sure – but that’s Tim Floyd for ya.  Demar DeRozan wll be a highlight reel for his one year in LA, but he has considerable help next to him, assuming they can all learn to share the ball and play together.  Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis are all talented players, and if UNC transfer Alex Stepheson is deemed eligible to play for the Trojans this year, USC has enough talent to make a run at the Pac-10 title.  We don’t expect that to happen because Ben Howland is Ben Howland and Tim Floyd is Tim Floyd, but the talent differential excuse doesn’t hold water anymore. 
      • Washington St. (NCAA #10) – We’re taking a bit of a risk with Wazzu at fourth and a bubble team for the NCAAs, but we truly believe that Tony Bennett is a system coach.  Like Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, the names on the backs of the jerseys are largely irrelevant to the success of the program.  They’re going to run their slower-than-Xmas stuff no matter which faces are running around out there, and in so doing, dare the rest of the Pac-10 to figure it out.  Now we’re not saying that the losses of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill won’t hurt – after all, that trio was the most decorated group of players in Washington St. history; but with center Aron Baynes returning along with guard Taylor Rochestie and small forward Daven Harmerling, Bennett has more than enough experience to continue confounding skeptics up in Pullman. 

      NIT Teams.

      • Washington (NIT) – This program has seemed to be in a funk ever since Brandon Roy left the dreary environs of Seattle.  If the Huskies are going to take advantage of a weaker Pac-10 to make a run at the NCAA Tournament (or the NIT), they’re going to have to get another superb season from PF Jon Brockman (18/12 on 54% FG).  But that won’t be enough without improved performances from Quincy Pondexter and Justin Dentmon on the perimeter.  Freshman Isaiah Thomas is getting some hype from Husky fans – perhaps he can push them over the top. 

      Others.

      • California – The story here is obviously Mike Montgomery’s return to college coaching at his former employer’s bitterest rival.  Had Cal held onto star player Ryan Anderson, we would have considered the Bears as a bubble NCAA team.  We do think Monty will get there eventually, as he did at Long Beach St. and Stanford (not exactly powerhouses when he arrived), but he’s not a quick-fix guy and it will take time to undo the culture of mediocrity left by Ben Braun. 
      • Arizona – On talent alone, with Chase Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill, the Wildcats should be a top three Pac-10 team.  However, with the fiasco that unfolded last month and the eyebrow-raising hire of the fomer Arizona State radio announcer Russ Pennell as the head coach, we’re not sure anyone will actually want to play for UA this season.  Putting them seventh was a gift. 
      • Oregon – We still can’t figure out how Ernie Kent got a big contract extension, but we suppose it doesn’t take much to satisfy people in Eugene.  At least until Mark Few takes an interest in coaching in the Pac-10.  With only one significant player returning, the 5’6 Tajuan Porter, and nine new faces, we just don’t see the Ducks making a return trip to the NCAAs this season.
      • Stanford – We think Johnny Dawkins is in for a surprise in Palo Alto this season.  Nobody has any clue as to how good of a coach he will be, but we can say with a degree of certainty that the only thing keeping the Cardinal afloat last year was the interior presence of the comical Lopez twins.  The guardplay was relatively abysmal (39.5% shooting), and oh, well, now the Lopezes are gone.  Good luck with that, JD. 
      • Oregon St. – Hey, did you guys hear that new head coach Craig Robinson is Barack Obama’s bro-in-lawWe hadn’t either.  Screw Corvallis, with Robinson’s financial resume, he should be in DC helping Barry fix the economy.  Seriously though, last year, OSU might have been the worst major conference team we’d ever seen (Indiana has a shot at bettering that this year).  Ferguson had success at Brown, though, which is a herculean task in its own right, so maybe he can get a few Ws in Corvallis this season.  Three or four would be miraculous. 

      RPI Boosters.

      • Washington v. Kansas  (11.24.08)
      • UCLA @ Texas  (12.04.08)
      • USC @ Oklahoma  (12.04.08)
      • Arizona @ Texas A&M  (12.05.08)
      • Gonzaga @ Washington St.  (12.10.08)
      • Arizona v. Gonzaga  (12.14.08)
      • Kansas @ Arizona  (12.23.08)
      • Notre Dame @ UCLA  (02.07.09)

      Important Games.

      • UCLA @ USC  (01.11.09)
      • Arizona St. @ UCLA  (01.17.09)
      • USC @ Washington St.  (01.24.09)
      • USC @ UCLA  (02.04.09)
      • USC @ Arizona St.  (02.15.09)
      • Washington @ UCLA  (02.19.09)
      • Arizonan @ Arizona St.  (02.22.09)

      Neat-O Stat.  The Pac-10, with only ten conference members, is the only BCS league that plays a true round-robin schedule of home/away games with every other team.  We like this because it gives a true measure of the strength of each team relative to one another in the conference.  There are no plans on the horizon to expand the Pac-10 to twelve members (for football reasons, the NCAA requires twelve teams to have a postseason championship game). 

      65 Team Era.  The Pac-10 has traditionally been the weakest of the six major conferences in its NCAA Tournament performance, going 127-96 (.570) over the era.  The league simply doesn’t put as many teams into the Tournament as its peers, earning 4.1 bids per year – the next lowest is the Big 12 with 4.8 per year, and the “Super Six” average is 5 bids per year.  As might be expected as a correlation to that fact, the Pac-10 is also last among the six conferences in #1 seeds (12), S16s (36) and F4s (9).  UCLA can’t do it all, folks!

      Final Thoughts.  UCLA has led the re-emergence of the Pac-10 conference as a basketball powerhouse the last several seasons, but turmoil among several previously consistent programs (Arizona, Stanford) has put the possibility of UCLA and the Nine Dwarves back into the conversation.  One thing that we can be certain of is that Ben Howland will win and win big as long as he’s residing in Westwood.  He hasn’t won a national title yet, but it seems a foregone conclusion that one of these years he’ll break through and win the brass ring.  The rest of the Pac-10 is going to have to figure out a way to recruit on par with UCLA as well as perform in March before this league will be considered a national power again.  We know that Pac-10 schools can attract star talent across the spectrum, but can they be coached up to taste national success?   

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      ATB: Jet-Zagged

      Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2007

      ATB v.4

      12.01.07

      The clock struck December today, which meant that the last day of the college football regular season coincided nicely with the first big Saturday of college hoops. Although today’s menu looked better than the actual meal tasted, there were still quite a few interesting results today.

      Game of the Day. #18 Gonzaga 85, Connecticut 82. We got to see this one, and it was a very fun game to watch. Neither team had much of a lead throughout the second half, but you have to hand it to the Zags for playing two very tough road games against quality teams 3000 miles away and coming away with two wins in the process. We really feel that once Gonzaga gets Josh Heytvelt back healthy this could be their best team in the Mark Few era. The key difference is that Jeremy Pargo (23/4/5 assts) gives them a degree of athleticism and skill at the guard position that they simply haven’t had in past years – usually they had players with one or the other, but rarely both (we’re giving him a pass for that stupid-ass foul on a three that nearly cost them the game). Then you throw in the versatile games that Heytvelt, Matt Bouldin, Austin Daye and David Pendergraft gives them, and you have a tough team to stop. Traditionally, the Zags’ problem has been on the defensive end, but at least so far this season, they’re getting the job done in that area (#13 in defensive efficiency nationally and held UConn to 38% shooting). As for today’s game, Gonzaga made just enough plays down the stretch to get the victory, but we were struck for the first time in two years with UConn’s fight. AJ Price had a nice game (22/3/6 assts), but does anyone else feel that Hasheem Thabeet (6/5/3 blks in 23 foul-plagued minutes) is the most overhyped player in America?

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      Other Good Games. #6 Duke 79, Davidson 73. ESPNU game, so we didn’t get to see it, but it looked like it went just as expected. Close game until Stephen Curry (20/5) got called for a questionable charging foul in each half, at which point Duke rebuilt its cushion to double digits each time. Davidson once again showed that it can hang with the nation’s elite, but simply has not been able to break through and win one of these things. We expect they’ll get the upcoming game against NC State. Still, give Duke their due – a balanced attack led by Gerald Henderson’s 21/8/4 assts resulted in another quality neutral court win. #3 UNC 86, Kentucky 77. Sticking in the ACC, remember when UNC-Kentucky was a big early-season game? There were several years in a row where CBS began its college hoops coverage for the year with this game – now it’s being shown on ESPN2 of all places. We watched this game too, but it was mostly boring because you knew that UK never really had a chance to win the game, even at home. Carolina didn’t shoot particularly well (43%) or look particularly good, but we could quickly tell that UK didn’t have enough good players to win this game. Two things we noticed – Danny Green (20/6 on 8-11 shooting) is really coming on for the Heels, and Patrick Patterson (19/9) is the real deal for UK. Oh, and we’re already sick of watching Psycho T’s incredibly awkward post game. Providence 98, Boston College 89 (OT). With 14:40 remaining in the second half, Providence was leading BC 62-38. Over the next thirteen minutes, BC outscored Providence 37-8 (incl. a 17-0 run) to take a five-pt lead with just over a minute remaining. Unbelievably, PC’s Weyinmi Efejuku (21/9/4 assts) (yeah, you try saying it) hit two key threes in the last minute to send the game they’d totally blown into overtime. In the extra session, the Friars went on a 13-2 run to finally put the wild game away. Our whipping boy Tyrese Rice had 25/3/6 assts/4 stls for BC, but he did miss the game-winning shot with 5 seconds remaining in regulation.

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      Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. California 86, Missouri 72. This was a very solid home win for Cal to remain unbeaten, as these were the types of games they typically lost in past years. Down for much of the game, the Bears fought back to finally take a lead with eight minutes remaining in the game on the strength of guards Patrick Christopher (18/4) and Ryan Anderson (15/11) as well as big man Devon Hardin (16/12). Cal is definitely a team with NBA talent to keep an eye on this year. Oklahoma St. 96, Washington 71. Speaking of keeping an eye on someone, we just cannot figure out Washington. A relatively tight game broke open to a 20-pt deficit for UW late in the first half, and they never challenged after that. Jon Brockman (22/13) appears to be the only Husky who showed up, but where’s the defense (UW gave up 58% shooting to OSU). For the Pokes, freshman James Anderson continued his under-the-radar early season stellar play with 22 pts. The Pac-10 now leads the HS 4-2 by our count.

      Upset of the Day. Harvard 62, Michigan 51. Poetic justice, anyone? God knows there’s no Tommy Amaker fans around here, but we had to laugh at the fortuitous scheduling that allowed Harvard to play a home game against Amaker’s old employer in the year immediately following his dismissal. Michigan isn’t very good, obviously, but they should never be getting whipped by Harvard down the stretch like they did tonight (Harvard scored the last 11 pts of the game). Good for Amaker – that’s a great signature win for his first year in Cambridge. Good to see the Harvard kids RTC there.

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      More Upsets.

      • Centenary 70, Texas Tech 66. Ugh. Sam Houston St. and Centenary already, and it’s only Dec. 1. Shouldn’t Knight hang ‘em up soon?
      • IUPUI 89, Massachusetts 77. Two short days after dropping 107 on Cuse in the Dome, UMass gets blitzed 57-32 in the second half v. IUPUI and loses all their mojo. IUPUI’s George Hill poured in 30.

      Other Ranked Teams.

      • #5 Georgetown 61, Fairfield 49. Another ho-hum win for Georgetown.
      • #10 Louisville 47, Miami (OH) 44. Louisville really isn’t looking very good anymore (Tim Pollitz 22/11 for MU).
      • #11 Butler 65, Ohio St. 46. OSU was outscored 45-16 in the second half – these droughts are killing the Buckeyes. Not that anyone in C-bus noticed today (thanks WVU and Mizzou).
      • #13 Michigan St. 80, Jacksonville 51. Raymar Morgan with a career-high 24/7.
      • #15 Indiana 64, #23 S. Illinois 51. E-Giddy with 22 and DJ White with 10/12 in a tremendous road win for IU.
      • #17 Pittsburgh 78, Toledo 52. Sam Young with 17/12 in another easy win for the Panthers.
      • #18 Clemson 85, South Carolina 74. KC Rivers with 24/8 with one more nail in Davey O’s coffin.
      • #20 BYU 78, Portland 54. Trent Plaisted with 16/8 in another efficient win for the Cougs.
      • #21 Xavier 90, Belmont 49. Wow, the margin here amazes us. Belmont shot only 27% for the game.
      • #24 Villanova 84, Pennsylvania 61. Scottie Reynolds with 21 in another blowout win for a ranked team.

      Other Notable Scores.

      • Vanderbilt 92, Georgia Tech 79. Vandy is the second-best team in the SEC right now (7-0).
      • West Virginia 70, Winthrop 53. Huggins’ guys are already #1 in defensive efficiency – they held Winthrop to 30% shooting today.
      • Mississippi St. 78, Murray St. 61. Charles Rhodes with 22/5 in only 25 mins tonight.
      • Arkansas 62, Oral Roberts 51. Gary Ervin with 16 off the bench for the Hawgs.
      • St. Mary’s 85, Seton Hall 70. SMC is very very tough at home.
      • Pacific 70, Nevada 66. Nevada (2-4) is on its way to not making the NCAAs this year at this rate.

      On Tap Today(all times EST). More Big 12/Pac-10 action and little else.

      • Kansas (-2.5) v. USC (FSN) 2pm – we kinda figure KU will destroy USC in this game, but it’s worth watching to find out.
      • Nebraska (-2.5) v. Arizona St. (ESPNU) 2pm. a clunker in the Hardwood Series.
      • Stanford (-7.5) v. Colorado (ESPNU) 4pm - this is only interesting to see how Stanford handles another road game.
      • Texas A&M v. Arizona (-2) (FSN) 6pm – this could be a tremendous matchup if Zona decides to protect its home court.
      • Maryland (-3.5) v. VCU 7:30pm – the battle of disappointments.
      • UCLA (-11) v. Texas (FSN) 8pm - Vegas giving Texas no respect here. We’re very excited about this matchup regardless.
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      ATB: David… so… close.

      Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2007

      ATB v.4

      11.14.07

      Story of the Night. Gotta be #20 Davidson giving #2 UNC all it could handle in a “neutral” (if neutral means a light blue haze falling over the proceedings) environment in Charlotte. When we did our SoCon preview, we mentioned that Davidson could position itself for an at-large NCAA bid with solid performances against the ACC troika of UNC, Duke and NC State + UCLA in its non-conference schedule. Consider tonight’s game Exh. A to the selection committee. It’s much easier said than done, but Davidson fans should try to keep their minds on the long-term benefits of playing well in a nationally-televised game v. UNC instead of bemoaning the loss of the game down the stretch. Now, about the game itself. Clearly Davidson had no answer for Psycho-T, that is, whenever Carolina decided to get him the ball (14/14 on only 3-6 shooting), but we find it downright criminal that the beef of UNC’s frontcourt (Hansbrough and Deon Thompson) only had eleven shots combined the entire game. We know Roy wants to run as much as possible, but he’s got to get his guards to understand where their strength really is – and it’s not with Danny Green chucking seven threes while the big guys set screens for him. As for Davidson, they played hard and put themselves in good position to win the game. Stephen Curry was really off on his outside game (2-12 from three), but what was really noticeable was just how easily he got to the rim on several occasions. The crossover in the open court on Quentin Thomas was particularly disgusting. Honestly, we didn’t know he had that, and color us impressed. So what does this game say about both teams? For Carolina, it showed a couple of things: 1) Wayne Ellington is ready for prime time this year (20 pts); and 2) at least right now, they miss the length and defense of Brandan Wright and Reyshawn Terry. For Davidson, they shot 39% and 18% from three, and yet they were within reach with a minute to go – that should be an encouraging sign for their other big games coming up. At least one DU blogger seems to have the proper perspective (UNC 72, Davidson 68).

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      Things We Saw. We also caught quite a bit of a pretty good Pac-10/Mtn. West matchup between Utah and Washington. The problem was that we spent most of the first half trying to figure out how every Utah player could coincidentally also have the last name “Utah.” We know Utahns have a tendency toward big families, but it still seemed a little much. We finally realized that some Nobel laureate adidas has decided to put the name of the team on both the front and the back of the jerseys. We’re not even sure how to respond to this other than to say this could be the most disturbing uniform trend since the late 80s NC State unitards. We were so confused by the uniform issue that we lost track of the game for a while, but when we got our head straight, we noticed that Utah appears to be on its way back to respectability. Center Luke Nevill provided 14/10/3 blks and two ridiculous fouls after a made basket that ended up fouling him out, but he could not match up with UW’s beast Jon Brockman (several inches shorter), who blew up for 31/18 and used his quick feet to do as he pleased inside. Still, new Utah head man Jim Boylen should be pleased that his Utes fought hard and showed promise, shooting 55% on the road in an arena where the home team simply does not lose non-conference games (29 in a row now) (Washington 83, Utah 77).

      Big 12 Woes. Called it. Sam Houston St. at home defeated Knight and Texas Tech tonight by keeping Martin Zeno in check and killing TTU on the boards (42-29). We’re sure that Knight ripped some waitress/intern/ballboy staffer a new one after the game for some indiscretion or another – why won’t this guy just go away? His act was tired ten years ago, and he’s just not a very good coach anymore (Sam Houston St. 56, Texas Tech 54). Another Big 12 team went on the road in Texas and also came out of the evening with an L – Oklahoma St. Sean Sutton’s team allowed big nights from North Texas’ Keith Wooden and Josh White (combined for 50/14) while getting good production from only one of its own players, Marcus Dove (23/7). Could another .500 year be in store for the Pokes (North Texas 82, Oklahoma St. 73).

      Ranked Teams.
      #7 Tennessee 101, Ark-Monticello 44. We know it’s a D2 team, but whatsup with Lofton? 3-15 in two games.
      #13 Michigan St. 83, UL-Monroe 65. Raymar Morgan is averaging 19/15 in two games this year.

      #18 Texas A&M 81, UTEP 76. TAMU will meet Washington in the NIT semis.

      On Tap Tonight (all times EST). Only 32 games, but a couple of good ones on the tube.

      • Houston (pick) v. VCU (ESPNU) 9am – PR Shootout features Eric Maynor.
      • Marist v. Miami (FL) (-7) (ESPNU) 11:30am – more PR shootout.
      • Temple v. Providence (-6) (ESPNU) 2pm – and still more (why do we feel like Borat in the cheese aisle?).
      • Arkansas (-15) v. Charleston (ESPNU) 5pm – we’d like to see how John Pelphrey handles this team.
      • Connecticut (-13.5) v. Gardner-Webb (ESPN2) 7pm – the GW story ends here.
      • Hampton (NL) v. Kent St. 7pm – fantastic mid-major matchup – give us Kent at home.
      • Georgetown (-15) v. Michigan (ESPN 360) 7:30pm - how is Beilein’s offense coming along?
      • Kansas (NL) v. Washburn (ESPN FC) 8pm – it’s on tv, so we put it on the list.
      • Mississippi St. (-4.5) v. Clemson (ESPN FC) 8pm – best game of the night potentially – we think one of these two is a fraud, but we’re not sure who yet.
      • Northwestern v. Stanford (-9.5) (ESPN FC) 9pm – the last 2 yrs, Stanford laid an egg in an early road game – this year?
      • Memphis (-8.5) v. Oklahoma (ESPN2) 9pm – early test for Calipari’s Tigers.

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      How I Spent My Summer Vacation

      Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2007

      Unless you notice because your team happens to take advantage of the rule in a given summer, one of the open secrets among college hoops fans is that many teams are allowed to get a jumpstart on their season by implementing NCAA Bylaw 30.7 – “Foreign Tours and Competition.” This rule permits teams to take a basketball-related road trip to a non-US territory (yes, even Canada) once every four years, and allows for ten days of practice and as many as ten games against international teams so long as no class time is missed.

      Playing Hoops in Far-Flung Places

      With only 25 or so days of practice after Midnight Madness prior to the first regular season games, ten extra days in August to get a team prepared for the season can really make a difference. Not to mention the additional experience of playing games against real competition in sometimes hostile environments (we’ll never forget the story of Rick Pitino famously getting ejected by an Italian official on an overseas jaunt while at Kentucky). An experienced team can use this trip to revitalize the well-oiled machine it left on the floor last March; whereas, a young team can use the trip to build camaraderie and let the coaching staff assess where team strengths and weaknesses will lie. Either way, short of a devastating player injury, there are no downsides.

      Since so many programs use this rule, and data about who/when is difficult to come by, we can’t quantifiably state for a fact that the rule helps teams in the season of which it was used. But it’s reasonable to believe that more practice time ultimately begets a better team, and at least we can point to the 2006-07 Florida Gators as an example of where it worked – the Gators spent Labor Day weekend 2006 in Canada reminding themselves just how good they were by destroying the Brock Badgers (as you can see from the vid, Brock’s defenders are invisible) and Guelph (hugs!) in succession.

      So here are ten schools who are taking advantage of the rule this summer:

      • Tennessee – the preseason top 5 Vols spent 11 days on the Continent from Aug 8-19, and Bruce Pearl rated his team only a “C+” in terms of basketball while there. The Vols lost one game to Slovakia, but according to this article, they came away with a greater sense of appreciation for each other and understanding of roles, necessary after losing glue guy Dane Bradshaw and adding super-soph Tyler Smith to the mix.
      • Utah – Coming off an extremely tough 11-19 season, new head coach Jim Boylen’s team spent twelve days in Australia from Aug 7-19 working on teamwork and confidence. The Utes went 3-3 on their trip to chilly (it’s still winter there) Australia, but they came away with a sense that the “floor was higher,” which is pretty much a shot at the work ethic and demands of former coach Ray Giacolletti.
      • Stanford – likely preseason top 25 Stanford left for Italy on Aug 20 and will spend twelve days (six games) in Rome, Florence and Milan touring the piazzas and showcasing the interior game of the Lopez twins and the outside shooting of Anthony Goods. Somehow that trip just screams Stanford the only way Stanford can.
      • Indiana – another team with high expectations for the coming season is now practicing in preparation for its Labor Day weekend trip to the Bahamas – wait a minute, Kelvin, is this a vacation ($895 – all-in) or a basketball trip? The Hoosiers waited until school began so that it could include uber-frosh Eric Gordon in the practices and the trip.
      • USC – Tim Floyd is using the same holiday weekend to take his sqaud to Mazatlan, Mexico for four games. OJ Mayo will begin practicing with the team during the first day of classes on Aug 27. Assuming he can be bothered to show up, of course.
      • Clemson – the Tigers are another veteran team with four starters returning who will be taking the long Labor Day weekend to go to the Bahamas. Maybe Clemson fans and Indiana fans can both pretend they’re in Maui instead. Who are we kidding – all 440,000 toothless Clemson fans will be in Death Valley that weekend.
      • Oral RobertsEddie’s Other Son lost the two stars (Ken Tutt and Caleb Green) who led ORU to 86 wins in the last four seasons, so he’s using their Labor Day weekend trip to Toronto as an opportunity to rebuild with some young faces. Toronto, eh? No word on how ORU’s penalty killing and shift changes are looking this year.
      • Alabama - what is it with these schools going to Canada? The Tide will spend Labor Day weekend in Ottawa, of all places – a city even further north than Toronto. Bama will be without star point guard Ronald Steele, who is still rehabbing both knees after a disappointing season in 2006-07. Still, Gottfried has a solid core coming back, and the last time they made this trip, they went to the Elite 8 (2004).
      • Washington – another disappointing team last year with promise of better things this season, the Huskies are now practicing in preparation for an extended Labor Day trip to Greece from Aug 31 – Sept 4. Head man Lorenzo Romar said that only one of his five starting positions is taken at this point – the rest are up for grabs (F – Jon Brockman).
      • Belmont – these trips aren’t limited to just the bigger programs, as tiny NCAA Tournament darling Belmont University took a nine-day trip to Europe from Aug 11-20, including stops in Paris and London. That’s more like it.
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